These are the underdogs who will fight the odds at the IEM Rio Europe RMR
CS:GO's open circuit provides a chance for lesser known teams to make it all the way from the qualifiers to the Major, and a handful of them will be gunning to upset their way to the Major.
The IEM Rio Major qualification cycle is about to enter the next stage, the RMR events, which bring a close to the online portion of the qualification process by moving to a LAN environment. In Europe, 32 teams will fight in Malta on October 4-9 for 16 coveted Major spots. The teams have been split into two 16-team Swiss-system groups, with each group awarding the eight most successful rosters spots at the Major.
Half of the teams that will attend the RMR qualifiers in Malta came through the online open qualifiers, Valve's open circuit model, which affords every team a the chance to make their mark and reach the biggest stage with the condition that they prove their worth against some of the more established teams. Several high-profile names already struggled against the competition in this Major's open qualifiers, with Astralis edging through the final qualifier while Entropiq and Movistar Riders missed out altogether.
Underdog stories of Majors past are one of the things that encapsulated CS:GO as a game, and it doesn't look like that is going to change anytime soon. Earlier this year at PGL Major Antwerp 2022, Bad News Eagles shocked the world after coming through the open qualifiers to claim a place at the Legends stage and make history for Kosovo.
Spirit were another team who made their way through the open qualifier and even though expectations for the roster were low at the time, they went all the way to the Major's semi-final in front of a packed arena in Antwerp. Given CS:GO's history, it is entirely plausible that one of the eight teams mentioned in the article could be the next to produce yet another fairy-tale run at a CS:GO Major.
|Aleksandr "KaiR0N-" Anashkin||18||1.13|
|Viktor "Lack1" Boldyrev||23||1.10|
|Artem "RAiLWAY" Gradovich||26||1.09|
|Amin "sugaR" Azimov||23||0.98|
|Evgeny "delus1onn" Plottsov||20||-|
Aurora signed their team at the end of August after they successfully qualified for the RMR. The team's most recognizable member is coach Sergey "starix" Ischuk, who had a prolific playing career in 1.6 and CS:GO with Natus Vincere before becoming the top Ukrainian organization's coach. His newest squad is composed of several young talents from Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, averaging 22.6 years of age.
Aleksandr "KaiR0N-" Anashkin and Viktor "Lack1" Boldyrev are the stars of the roster, with the latter finding a home straight after being removed from Entropiq to make space for Nikolay "mir" Bityukov. He is also the only Aurora player with Major experience, having made an appearance in the PGL Major Stockholm 2021 Challengers Stage.
KaiR0N-, who previously plied his trade in INDE IRAE, is the youngest and highest-rated player on the roster. A product of Spirit Academy, the 18-year-old has found a higher gear after leaving the academy circuit. The duo is joined by Artem "RAiLWAY" Gradovich, who played alongside KaiR0N- in INDE IRAE, Amin "sugaR" Azimov, and ex-VP.Prodigy member Evgeny "delus1onn" Plottsov.
The lineup has recorded just 18 maps on HLTV.org, so it is hard to predict their chances based on current form. Their biggest success came in the IEM Road to Rio 2022 Europe Open Qualifier 1, where they beat Astralis 16-11 with KaiR0N- putting up 27 kills. Teams from the CIS region such as Vega Squadron, Quantum Bellator Fire, and Spirit have shown high upset potential in past Major cycles, and Aurora will be fighting to keep that legacy alive.
|Casper "Cabbi" Jensen||24||2.04|
|Jonas "Queenix" Dideriksen||23||1.44|
|Tobias "kraghen" Kragh Jensen||20||1.21|
|Marcus "maNkz" Kjeldsen||24||-|
|Benjamin "brzer" Jensen||20||-|
Housing one of Denmark's many teams, ECSTATIC is an organization that rose to prominence with their previous lineup led by Thomas "birdfromsky" Due-Frederiksen. Marcus "maNkz" Kjeldsen, who has since taken over the IGL role, is the only player remaining from the team that peaked at #16 in the world ranking.
The 24-year-old is joined by the former MASONIC trio of Casper "Cabbi" Jensen, Tobias "kraghen" Kragh Jensen and Jonas "Queenix" Dideriksen. Alongside them is Benjamin "brzer" Jensen, a 20-year-old that started out with Astralis Talent. The young Dane fulfills the AWPing role for the squad but still has the lowest average rating in the team with a 0.97. On the other hand, Cabbi is the highest rated player in the roster with a 1.07 rating, showing a small discrepancy in player ratings, which means that ECSTATIC will have to rely on their team play or hope players can overperform in crucial moments.
The Danish team has recorded 37 maps on HLTV, with their most recent success coming in the Pelaajat Nordic Masters Fall 2022 - BLAST Premier Qualifier, where they secured a spot at the Showdown after beating ENCE in the semi-final before securing the title. Considering the team has shown they can hang with higher-ranked teams at that event, at least in an online setting, they now need to prove they can repeat the feat at the RMR, this time in a much higher-stakes LAN enviroment.
|Frederik "acoR" Gyldstrand||25||-|
|Mihai "iM" Ivan||23||-|
|Nicolas "Keoz" Dgus||21||-|
|Kamil "siuhy" Szkaradek||20||-|
|Isak "isak" Fahlén||21||-|
GamerLegion is a new team with some well-known individuals that came together just before the Major qualification cycle started. The organization, which began its journey in CS:GO with a roster led by Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans, has fielded European mix-teams throughout their time in the game, and their newest roster is no different.
Isak "isak" Fahlén and Mihai "iM" Ivan are the only two players that kept their place in the team from the roster's previous iteration and the Romanian rifler is the team's star with a 1.13 rating throughout his time at the organization. They are joined by Nicolas "Keoz" Dgus, who was recently removed from Falcons, and ex-MOUZ NXT IGL Kamil "siuhy" Szkaradek. The final piece of the puzzle is MOUZ outcast Frederik "acoR" Gyldstrand, who has found a new lease of life since joining GL. The Danish AWPer had some great performances in the open qualifiers, averaging a 1.29 rating in the 14 maps he played.
Being a relatively unknown quantity due to the lack of maps played, GamerLegion will try to use that to their advantage to surprise some of the favorites at the RMR. If acoR continues his upward trend in form, then the international squad has every chance for an upset, especially in a best-of-one format. Their first test is against FaZe, however, so they will need to be at the top of their game to even trouble the #1 team in the world, or risk starting the event with a loss.
|Arseniy "cptkurtka023" Derevinskiy||23||-|
|Denis "amster" Liashenko||21||-|
|Alexey "alex666" Yarmoshchuk||21||-|
|Nikita "Hkta" Reva||22||-|
|Artem "r1nkle" Moroz||17||-|
B8 is a team made up of relatively unknown youngsters from Ukraine, the team's average age resting at just 21.1 years. The spotlight falls on Artem "r1nkle" Moroz, who is the squad's youngest and highest-rated player. He is currently on a 17 event streak with +1 ratings, and averages a 1.18 rating in the last three months.
The trio of Arseniy "cptkurtka023" Derevinskiy, r1nkle and Nikita "Hkta" Reva has been together for almost one year, while the team languished in the lower reaches of the scene during that time. A 5-8th place at CEE Champions 2022 was their biggest success, as good results proved hard to come by for the Ukrainian team. That prompted them to make two changes, bringing in Alexey "alex666" Yarmoshchuk and Denis "amster" Liashenko. Improvements were seen straight from the get-go, with the team putting together a successful ESEA Advanced campaign to qualify for the playoffs, where they showed promising signs. Their highlight so far came in the deciding match of the third open qualifier to the RMR, where they recorded a 2-0 win over HEET.
Expectations for the Ukrainian side are low, given they lack the needed experience or firepower to seriously contend for a spot at the Major. B8 are the lowest-ranked team at the RMR with exception of the last-minute substitutes of Illuminar. If they are to have any success, r1nkle will need to be the key piece providing performances beyond his years.
|Robin "ScrunK" Röpke||27||-|
|Kornél "kory" Szedlár||24||-|
|Love "phzy" Smidebrant||20||-|
|Can "kyuubii" Kamber||17||-|
|Caner "Soulfly" Kesici||18||-|
Sangal is one of the list's rare teams that has been together for a longer time. The Turkish organization houses a European mix, of which the core has been together for eight months, during which they qualified for the PGL Major Antwerp 2022 Europe RMR. Due to unfortunate circumstances, they were forced to use their coach Tugay "TuGuX" Keskin as a stand-in and went out in last place.
This time, the core of Kornél "kory" Szedlár, Can "kyuubii" Kamber, IGL Robin "ScrunK" Röpke and Caner "Soulfly" Kesici is joined by Love "phzy" Smidebrant, who was added to the team on loan from Young Ninjas in August to take over AWPing duties from Efekan "S3NSEY" Topaloglu. The team has looked in superb form since then, qualifying for the RMR after a convincing win over Entropiq.
Sangal also booked their place at the BLAST Premier Fall Showdown with a victory in GAM3RS_X EU Champions Fall 2022, where they got a best-of-three victory over fnatic. phzy has shown impressive form with a 1.14 rating, but he is not alone in putting up big numbers with kyuubii and Soulfly, who are just 17 and 18 years old respectively, both contributing to Sangal's current twelve-match win streak.
|Bastian "ayken" Schendzielorz||28||-|
|Thijs "rilax" Izaks||24||-|
|Filip "tudsoN" Tudev||22||-|
|Alexander "br0" Bro||20||-|
|Alexey "Topa" Topchienko||22||-|
FANTASY is a mix-team composed of free agents currently plying their trade in FACEIT's FPL Challenger league. The team was put together for the Major qualifier and came through the third iteration after beating los kogutos in the deciding game.
The mix-team features Bastian "ayken" Schendzielorz, who is most known for his time at Sprout in 2018 and was the highest-rated player of their open qualifier run with a 1.21 rating as the team's AWPer. The biggest name in the team may be Filip "tudsoN" Tudev, who departed Anonymo in May after failing to secure a spot at the PGL Major Antwerp in the RMR. The aforementioned duo are playing alongside Thijs "rilax" Izaks, who most recently represented Finest for a short two-month spell, Alexander "br0" Bro and ex-NAVI Junior player Alexey "Topa" Topchienko.
The European mix is the biggest question mark at the event. They have just five recorded maps on HLTV, all coming in the open qualifier through which they locked in their spot at the RMR. They will meet Vitality in their first match, where they will need to be at the top of their game to stand a chance against the newly minted ESL Pro League champions.
|Sergiy "DemQQ" Demchenko||21||1.30|
|Hristiyan "REDSTAR" Pironkov||21||-|
|Volodymyr "Woro2k" Veletniuk||21||-|
|Frederik "Fessor" Sørensen||21||-|
|Joel "joel" Holmlund||18||-|
Another team comprised of free agents is Monte, who have been together for just over two months. The team was forced to alter their roster for the RMR, however, due to Mohammad "BOROS" Malhas being ruled out of the event. The team has chosen Frederik "Fessor" Sørensen to replace him and the Dane is already in Malta with the squad.
The roster is headlined by Volodymyr "Woro2k" Veletniuk, who recently made headlines for all the wrong reasons after lashing out at s1mple in the Kinguin Legends tournament but has otherwise proved his talent in the server several times. The 21-year-old is fulfilling the main AWP role for the team, something he is familiar with from his time in MAD Lions. He is playing in Monte alongside countryman Sergiy "DemQQ" Demchenko, who last year played for the Akuma team infamously accused of cheating at a Regional Major Ranking event. Ex-Fiend member Hristiyan "REDSTAR" Pironkov and Joel "joel" Holmlund, who was without a team since departing Galaxy Racer more than a year ago, round out the roster that will play in Malta.
Monte has had some good results in their short time together, qualifying for the CCT Central Europe Series 1, where they finished 5-8th after a 1-2 loss to the tournament's winners, MIBR. They also defeated Endpoint to secure their spot at the RMR, but are yet to test themselves against the world's elite.
|Piotr "morelz" Taterka||28||1.02|
|Bartek "mASKED" Trybuła||21||0.94|
|Paweł "reatz" Jańczak||27||-|
|Konrad "EXUS" Jeńczeń||24||-|
|Mateusz "TOAO" Zawistowski||25||-|
PGE Polish Esports League Supercup 2022
Illuminar have joined the fray as a last-minute replacement for Benched Heroes, who will miss the tournament due to visa issues. The Polish squad were invited to the tournament in Malta after placing seventh in the final open qualifier, making them the first replacement if any of the teams were to drop from the event as ended up happening to Owen "smooya" Butterfield and company.
Illuminar's two longest-standing players are Piotr "morelz" Taterka and Bartek "mASKED" Trybuła, who have plied their trade for the Polish organization for over half a year. The rest of the squad that will be traveling to Malta is comprised of Mateusz "TOAO" Zawistowski, Paweł "reatz" Jańczak and Konrad "EXUS" Jeńczeń.
Since refreshing their roster at the end of August, the team failed to make waves on the international scene, with a 9-16th in CCT Central Europe Series 2 being their best result in that period. Considering their late confirmation at the event, the Poles will have to count on the fact that their unpredictability will turn out to be an advantage. Their first test will not be an easy one, however, as they will have to go up against Natus Vincere in their opening best-of-one.
Despite upsets being by definition hard to come by, and the chances of them happening slim, the IEM Road to Rio Europe RMR's tournament format gives teams a chance of upsetting the favorites since all games except the progression and elimination matches set to be played in best-of-ones. The first matches in the Swiss system will give underdogs more of a chance to seize the advantage if their opponents start slowly, while also significantly shrinking the map pool. Coupled with the fact that the gap in individual level of play between top teams and contenders is getting closer year by year, it is not out of the question that some of the middle-of-the-pack and favorite teams may sweat to qualify for the IEM Rio Major on the final day of play.